There comes a (sometimes scary) day in every creative’s life when video concept meets concrete production. The client has approved the concept, the writer has penned the script, the creative director has thrown some mustard on it, and the production coordinator has set a date. Today’s the day this vision comes to life, and you’re left with sweaty palms.
So, just what happens on this glorious day? Well, that depends; sometimes, it’s better not to know all the things that can happen. Instead, I’ll tell you what should happen and things to watch for when you’re standing around on set without a clue.
1. DO: Bring the right stuff
Maybe this goes without saying, but if you’ve helped create the script, bring extra copies along. No one wants to be guessing what the voiceover is, or if someone has the final version. Frankly, things can easily get misplaced. Also, dress for comfort because it’s going to be a long day. A pro tip is to pack a bag as if you’re going on a day trip: tissues, lip balm, phone charger, sunscreen and sunglasses (if it’s an outdoor shoot), and other things you need during the day. Lastly, bring other work to do during long waits.
2. DON’T: Help the production crew
Unless asked. It can be tempting to reach out and help. However, you have no clue how to set up lighting. And trust me, you don’t want to be the one who threw off the production schedule. Ask if you can help prep the talent, or go over any last minute notes that may need to be clarified. Check with the art director about helping with wardrobe or scene set-up. Get close without getting too close.
3. DO: Use your voice
If something is coming together in a way that you don’t understand, express your opinion. The worst thing that can happen is that someone overrules your decision; the best, you just amplified the work and your reputation. Mic drop. It’s literally your job to keep the creative as sharp as possible. A writer, for example, should have no problem making minimal voiceover changes if the reading doesn’t sound natural.
4. DON’T: Know it all
The amazing thing about being on set is the opportunity to learn from others. Every production day is different, with an amazing group of producers, directors, photographers, sound engineers and so on. Take this time to absorb what they know and apply it to future situations. I’m not saying ignore #3, but do it wisely. Sometimes other people’s ideas work better. That’s what collaboration is all about.
5. DO: Have Fun & Wrangle
There are things you can do to help out, like grabbing a water for the director who is bending his back in a way that hurts his football injury from 1989. Just do it. Also, why not keep the talent comfortable, get to know the people around you better—perhaps it’s the client—and have a little fun? If you have multi-day shoots, this is vital. Everyone is near burning out, so keep up the energy. Speaking of client, sometimes they don’t know what to do, so just keep them busy and assured.
6. Finally, LISTEN.
The production people telling you what to do know what they’re doing. Look around at the amazing people in your corner. Take those moments of frustration and throw them out the window. At the end of a shoot day, you all either clink glasses or go home knowing that you had a productive day. Now just wait for the final product.